I have always wanted to visit Egypt but I did not expect it to happen so abruptly. It was literally a last minute plan with my family. I honestly did not know what to expect from the country given the terror attacks that had just occurred days before we arrived. I had mixed feelings about it at first, but little did I know that this was going to be one of my favorite trips to date. I do not know why we never thought to do this sooner given the fact that Egypt is our neighboring country (only about 3 and ½ hour flight from Kenya). However, I was beyond excited that I was finally going to see The Great Pyramids of Giza, the second wonder of the world for me.
We traveled to Cairo right before Christmas. Seeing this wonder of the world during Christmas meant a lot to us being that Christmas is my mother’s birthday and every year we try to make it special for her. After settling in for a day, we were finally ready to go see the great pyramids of Egypt. Getting to the pyramids is as straightforward as hopping into a microbus in downtown Cairo. We however, hired a private car and were fortunate enough to have our tour guide with us.
View of Cairo from Cairo Tower
As you approach the pyramids, you will notice that they are as impressive in real life as they are in any photos, and perhaps even more so when you are given a better sense of the scale of the monuments. While one side of the pyramids are up against the desert, the other side is right up against a residential neighborhood.
In fact right across the street from the main gate to the pyramids is a Pizza Hut. That is literally what the Sphinx is looking at. Of course we had to treat ourselves to lunch there, overlooking these magnificent monuments.
The great pyramids of Giza are marvelous accomplishments of architecture. The Giza complex consists of three large pyramids built for the pharaohs Khufu (or cheops), Khafre and Menkaure. The grand structures were built between 2589 BC and 2504 BC. How they were built has been a source of debate. It’s estimated that as many as 100,000 workers (10 per cent of Egypt’s population at the time) toiled on the 4,500-year-old monuments. Amazingly, the Great Pyramid remained the tallest man-made structure in the world until the arrival of modern skyscrapers. The pharaoh’s tombs are still in remarkable condition and, unlike many other esteemed monuments, the internal corridors, chambers and galleries are open to the public. The pyramids are part of the Giza Necropolis that also houses the Great Sphinx, smaller pyramids for queens and several complexes for the workers. Historians say the purpose of the pyramids was to house the king’s body after death. The Giza pyramids have elaborate tunnel systems inside containing gold and other objects Egyptians thought would be useful in the afterlife. Our tour guide was kind enough to share with us its rich history.
Great Pyramid of King Cheops. Largest Pyramid
We stayed there for the better part of the day. Cold as it was, it did not bother us anyway as we were in the presence of something much bigger than us. For me they live up to all of my expectations. The mere site of these three massive structures is enough to instill a sense of awe that few other manmade destinations can compare to.
I know that this post is about The Great Pyramids of Giza but I cannot fail to mention the beautiful and astonishing temples we visited in Luxor and Aswan. We left Cairo for Luxor the next day where we explored the Cities of Luxor and Aswan with the luxury Nile cruises. What a treat that was! We always woke up to a view of the magic horizon of hot air balloons. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go on one as it was fully booked for the next couple of days. Adventure for another day.
Luxor stands above Egypt’s other towns for its sheer wealth of temples and tombs. We first visited the temple of Karnak. It has one of the most stunning monuments. It is not built to a single unified plan, but represents the building activity of many successive rulers of Egypt, who vied with one another in adding to and adorning this great national sanctuary, which became the most important of Egypt’s temples during the New Kingdom.
We later visited the Valley of the Kings. This was the final resting place for the kings of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. Their main attraction is their wonderfully vivid wall paintings. The walls of the tombs are decorated with texts and scenes depicting the journey and giving the dead man instruction on its course. Within the valley are 63 tombs that are a roll-call of famous names of Egyptian history including the famous boy-king Tutankhamun.
We also visited the Luxor temple which is presiding over the downtown district and Luxor museum which is one of Egypt’s best museums. It holds a beautifully exhibited collection from the local area that tells the story of ancient Thebes from the Old Kingdom right up to the Islamic Period.
We also went to Temple of Deir al-Bahri (Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple) which was one of my favourite temples. It is magnificently situated at the foot of the sheer cliffs bordering the desert hills.
I immensely enjoyed my Christmas in Egypt. It is a country where you should stop for a few days and simply lose yourself in the wonders of the ancient world.